As children head back to the classroom in the coming days, pediatricians recommend that children still mask, even though the risk of COVID-19 may be lower.
Along with the rise in COVID-19 in adults, it has also increased in children. Since school begins in many areas, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that indoor masks be mandatory.
“While none of us can look into the future and determine what will happen, we must remain on our guard,” Dr. Joy Drass to The Daily News.
Drass is a pediatrician with Geisinger at State College. She said the rates in children are rising at a higher level because children under the age of 11 cannot be vaccinated.
“We have good data from last year, when schools were personal, that rates were reduced when they followed precautions and wore masks,” she said.
Although rates had fallen in the summer months, cases are on the rise again. Despite this, many schools do not need face masks. This includes Huntingdon Area School District, where school board members voted at the Aug. 16 meeting to keep masks optional.
Despite some concerns from parents, Drass said masks do not cause psychological harm to children.
“From what we saw last year, kids and teachers adapted very well to wearing a mask at school,” she said.
Drass also said that while most cases in children are less severe than those in adults, there are still many risks.
“We still had many children who needed to be hospitalized and others who had problems post-COVID,” she said.
These problems include inflammatory problems that affect mesenchymal stem cells and cause respiratory problems.
With the Delta variant becoming more widespread, Drass said it’s even more important to follow guidelines.
While testing cannot determine whether this variant affects children worse than the original, it is more contagious.
“I am convinced that children belong in a school environment,” said Drass. “But only if measures are taken.”
She said that because many schools do not require masks, these schools may see themselves returning to online learning in the future.
For now, Drass continues to encourage people to get vaccinated.
“Anyone 12 years and older can be vaccinated and we hope to have a vaccine for children as young as 5 by the winter,” she said. “The more people vaccinated, the faster immunity we can get.”